It's a Sweet Trip

An Open Letter to People Who Care

by Sandy Arena on 04/15/16

April 15, 2016


An Open Letter to People Who Care:

We need to write this letter because many of you know us and have journeyed with us since 2008 when we first brought the twins into our lives.  It’s everything we ever wanted to say and maybe never had the time or opportunity to do so, and it’s everything we wish we could say when you ask us “How are the twins?”  Our goal to protect their reputations and history as we have introduced them into our world has changed, as we have decided that the truth needs to be told to protect ours.

It is with sad hearts to announce we have withdrawn our petition for full custody of the twins. What started out to be the most joyful few weeks for us has turned into the biggest tragedy and heartbreak of our lives.

Yesterday, circumstances with the twins went downhill, and we had to withdraw our petition in court this morning for the sake of our family’s dignity, welfare and safety. We have never before been so heartbroken and it has been a devastating few days for us, to say the least.

The attorney for the twins had recommended to the judge this morning that our family would be awarded custody, but given our withdrawal, it was not possible, of course.

The judge ended up awarding custody to their biological father who has never even had the twins over for a sleepover or an extended visit.  He has had sporadic involvement - at best.  He showed up in their lives last September – the first time in years – unannounced. He seemingly despised our family unwilling to thank us for the years we had been caring for them, putting up with their criminal mother, and paying for everything for them from food, to household bills, to bus fare, activities, celebrations, on and on and on and on. We had been caring for them for eight years and had never seen him or heard from him during that time, and a warm first time interaction would have been appropriate. Our hearts were open to him in good faith. It was not reciprocated to us.

The very excellent news to all this is that the judge ripped apart their mother in the court room and denied custody of the twins citing her criminal history and her 20 years and counting documented events of child neglect, child abuse, child endangerment  and addiction charges. Why it has taken this long to remove the kids is testament to a broken system and is tragic. The blessing in this nightmare for us is that their mother can no longer physically and verbally and emotionally abuse and assault them, or us, for that matter, as we have been on the receiving end of her manipulative and destructive behavior for the past eight years for the sake of the twins. We have been called every name in the book by her and threatened and lied to and manipulated and pushed around for way too many years. We could write a book, and maybe we will. Last time we saw her - which was just yesterday - she called Sandy at the top of her lungs an ugly, white bitch, that and about 25 other names.

So the big question is why did you withdraw after all this? After selling our house and finding one that would accommodate our children and the twins and that would enable them to have their own beds and bedrooms and dressers and shelves to put their trophies, why? Why after paying $2000 and spending two months meeting with attorneys and going to sign petitions and attend hearings? Why after spending three hours per day driving the twins back and forth to school and battling it out on their behalf with their teachers and administrators to advocate for them? Why after securing their involvement in sports and church and spending thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on activities and special food and cell phones and clothing and you name it? Why? Why withdraw after all this?

And here is why and also why we feel it necessary to speak the truth so that lies cannot be told, and so that rumors cannot spread.  This has been a big deal for our family and we are still in shock unable to grasp what has transpired over the past few months.

It became a struggle for us the past few weeks with the behavior we were experiencing. We had had the twins here at our house for extended visits during school breaks, summer break, and during many crisis circumstances with their mom including time she spent in rehabilitation and also when she was incarcerated. But, they were never ours where we had authority to make decisions for them at school, or give them school time routines and bedtimes, food choices, and limitations that would last throughout their high school years, and so forth. Usually the mom would make those decisions since she had the authority, and then we would come in behind her with a mop and clean up her expensive messes.  Usually our time was previously filled with fun, and sports practices, or dance classes or performances, or special vacations or shopping trips or outings or restaurants. The daily mundane of living so that you can enjoy all of this was not an experience they had with us.

As tensions mounted, we finally decided to do what good parents do, and seized their phones, one phone of which we had to physically wrestle out of their hands in front of the school vice principal. It was shocking.

What we saw on the phones hurt.

For the sake that they are minors, we will leave the details except to say the worst of all was the fact that through all of their communications and the things we learned that they did and the derogatory things they said about us on the phones we gave them, they were playing us for fools.  They did not want to be part of our family, but were using us for access to sports.  

Every day since beginning the custody petition in February, we asked them, “Are you sure? Do you want to be with us?” They had started this plan, after all, and every day they said “Yes”. We asked them again and again and again and assured them that we would not be mad at them and that we would always love them, but asked them to not waste our time or the $2000 in legal fees, or the process of selling our house,  if not.  We did not want them here unless they WANTED to be here and wanted to be part of our family truly. They assured us. Reading their text messages and communications on social media private messages with family and city friends indicated otherwise, and now $2000 later and with our house sold, we have to deal with the deception of this.

Thank you for loving them and us and for accepting them into our wonderful community and standing by us.  It will be a long journey back to healing for us as parents and as a family. We have thousands of photos of them enjoying the good times with our children and yours over many years, celebrations, holidays, sporting events, vacations and activities. One day perhaps we will understand, but for now we trust God for ordering our steps and guarding our hearts and family.  Light always uncovers darkness and we were grateful to know the truth, as hurtful as it was to learn.

Please enjoy other writings and photos I have shared about the twins here:

The Gift of Clyde and Claudia

Some Photos Over the Years on SmugMug Photo Site

Early Photos on Facebook

Follow Sandy Arena on Facebook and See Many, Many More


The Arena Family - Sam, Sandy, Alexis, Caleb and Anna


It's A Sweet Trip Blog

By Sandy Arena